Dengeki Online Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode interview

(Full title: “Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode prerelease interview: Revealed secrets ranging from development of the Ultimate-evolved 3DS version to information on how to clear the game”)

A translation of this Dengeki Online article from June 20, 2013, featuring an interview with producer Kazumasa “Habumon” Habu and director Yusuke Tomono of the video game Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode.

We’re here to deliver an interview with the developers of the 3DS RPG Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode, which will be released by Bandai Namco Games on June 27.

This game is an RPG in which the protagonists explore the world of the online game “Digital Monster” and raise digital life forms called “Digimon” that inhabit a pseudo-cyberspace. In addition to the content of the PSP game Digimon World Re:Digitize from 2012, two new storylines have been prepared, and more than 200 Digimon will appear in the game, making a significantly more enhanced game than before. For more information on the game, please refer to this Dengeki Online review article.1

Today, we’ve spoken with producer Kazumasa Habu-san (Bandai Namco Games) and director Yusuke Tomono (24Frame). We asked about different anecdotes about this work as well as the 15-year history of Digimon as a whole, so fans should definitely take a look.

▲ Left is Director Tomono; right is Producer Habu.

What tales of struggles lie behind the revival of the legendary masterpiece game, Digimon World for the PlayStation?

–Firstly, please tell us what led to this game being developed, and the concept behind its development.

Habu: It all started when we wanted to recreate Digimon World for the PlayStation, a game that was very popular in the past, in a modern style for the Digimon 15th Anniversary Project. This led to the release of the PSP game Digimon World Re:Digitize.

The PSP game was a huge hit, so we decided to port it to the 3DS, which led to the development of Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode. At first, we were just going to make an orthodox port, but we started working as hard as we could to put in as many new things as we could within the allotted development time, and we ended up with something that couldn’t even be called a port anymore.

Tomono: At first, we were saying “let’s add in just a few extra bonuses,” but then Habu-san started making all sorts of adjustments here and there, and in the end, we ended up diverting the direction to “let’s make something you might as well call a sequel.” (laughs)

Habu: A lot of 3DS players are children, so I wanted to put a lot of effort into expanding this new world of Digimon. Also, to be honest, there were some things we weren’t able to do with the PSP version and some regrets we had, so I was motivated to redo it and make it better than ever before.

Tomono: We’d already been talking about adding a new dungeon called Infinity Mountain, along with a new Digimon. But after the word “sequel” came up, we decided to include a new storyline and a new system, along with a huge number of new elements.

You may not believe me when I say we made all of this new content after the PSP version was already released, but even we, the ones who made it, have a hard time believing it (laughs). The biggest reasons we were able to make this happen were probably “familiarity” and “attachment”. Of course, there’s also the fact that we were able to accumulate more know-how about system development, but back when we were working on the PSP version, I was still studying how the world of Digimon worked, but when we were working on the 3DS version, I had a better grasp of “what makes something Digimon-like”, so I had a much deeper attachment to it and could decide on things much more smoothly.

–Did you feel any response during development?

Habu: It’s moreso “struggle” than “response”, but we had a very hard time at first. It’s been around 13 years since the original Digimon World for the PlayStation was released, so we had a lot of difficult parts to consider. It’s a rather unusually extraordinary game to begin with, and even the idea of figuring out how to recreate it in a modern way required a lot of trial and error.

–Was your development concept based on “perfect reproduction”?

Habu: Instead of completely recreating the original, our main purpose was to refine the game to make it easier to play.

Tomono: The game is around 13 years old, so if we just did a straight port, it wouldn’t be a game that’d be good for anyone besides existing fans. If you try to play the original PlayStation game again now, it’s an incredibly difficult game.

Habu: We used the PlayStation game as a reference for the system and playstyle, but we adjusted the game balance to be closer to modern games. We kept the players from the original PlayStation game in mind, but Digimon is a franchise with a 15-year history, so we were intent on balancing the game in such a way that first-time players would enjoy it.

Within all of that, the most important aspect we had to maintain was the “Digimon-like” quality that’s been in the series since the LCD game era. To put it simply, it’s the fun of evolving Digimon into different forms within a lifespan cycle.

The other is the unique gameplay this game has, where you can play around freely in the “Digital World” where Digimon live. Digimon World for the PlayStation was released in January 1999, and the gameplay resembles what we would nowadays call an “open-world RPG”, where the player can run around with a high degree of freedom.

–That’s true. Digimon World for the PlayStation allowed you to go wherever you wanted from the very beginning, and it was less a game about enjoying story as much as it was fun to adventure around the island with the Digimon you raised.

Habu: Exactly! It was difficult to recreate that feeling. Things like lifespan cycles went relatively smoothly because we just had to think of it as another systemic element, but the parts we struggled to reproduce were things like “high degree of freedom” and “reproducing the world where Digimon live”.

For example, we discussed the conditions for triggering events. There’s a stronger sense of story in this game, but on the other hand, I don’t think this should be the kind of game where the appeal is in following the story, but rather one about freely adventuring around an island and having sub-events here and there. If we mess up this balance, it’d just end up becoming a straightforward RPG where you just follow the story as you’re directed to.

Tomono: It’s fundamentally supposed to be a game where you can “play from whatever point you like”. Speaking from a more practical point of view, it would even have been easier if it were just an issue of how much content there is. It’s an extreme way to put it, but if it were just an issue of sheer content, we’d just have to work hard and get it done.

The more difficult part was designing the game in consideration of the player’s perspective, thinking about what would lead to sub-events and main story events. Besides just that, we also considered how to reproduce the kinds of conditions that would trigger events in a way as close as possible to the original PlayStation game, but in a more modern way.

Habu: The main draw of the game is that you get to enjoy adventuring with your Digimon partner around a world where Digimon live. You’d meet many different Digimon in different places and clear mini-events, the city would flourish further and further, but we were trying to reach a balance between that and progressing the main story. We had a very hard time coming up with this procedure…

In fact, it was around this time when Tomono-san joined the development team as a reinforcement member, and development headed onto a proper track. That was when I finally felt a response.

–Tomono-san, at what point did you feel a response?

Tomono: There were many times I did, but one particular one was in regards to the Infinity Mountain dungeon. It’s a replayable dungeon with 100 floors, but when development started we initially intended for it to be a bonus feature, and it was balanced in such a way that most people wouldn’t be able to clear it.

But once development kicked off and we had a bit of an opening in our schedule, we decided to make it something that a lot of players could enjoy, so we pushed ourselves and readjusted the balance. We even went as far as to take parts that were originally meant to be randomly generated and rebalanced them, giving them fixed maps and gimmicks, so I think we were finally able to balance it in such a way that anyone could eventually clear it if they worked at it.

We went through a whole load of problems, but thanks to the development staff at each site being flexible, development went very smoothly. Seeing this all play out, I really felt a sense of “oh, I’m really feeling comfortable with this development pace. The 3DS version is gonna turn out great for sure.”

What are the development staff members’ favorite characters and Digimon?

–Please tell us what your favorite Digimon is.

Tomono: Honestly, mine is WereGarurumon. As you might expect, the Digimon Adventure anime had a big influence on me, and since I like Yamato*, I like WereGarurumon. In terms of my favorite via playing the game, it’s probably just due to my playstyle, but so many Digimon evolved into Kabuterimon that I developed an attachment to it. Like, “oh, you again” (laughs).

*Yamato: A boy who appears in the anime Digimon Adventure, who is skilled with the harmonica. His Digimon partner is Gabumon, who evolves into Garurumon and WereGarurumon.

▲ LadyDevimon

Habu: My favorites are Devimon and LadyDevimon. Digimon designed for the LCD games by Kenji Watanabe-san2 have traits that resemble both monsters and American comic heroes, and I think those two express those aspects particularly well.

–How about the human characters, who were designed by Suzuhito Yasuda-san?

Habu: In terms of the characters themselves, my favorite is Mirei Mikagura. I feel bad that we couldn’t fully show off her background within the game, but Miyuki Sawashiro-san’s voice matches her visual image so well. I like her enough that I’d really like to bring her back again if there’s an opportunity.

In terms of audience reaction, we got an incredibly good response when we first revealed Akiho Rindou. It was so immediately striking that it shocked me.

▲ Mirei Mikagura
▲ Akiho Rindou

Tomono: As for me, I have a strong attachment to Rina Shinomiya, the new character for the 3DS version, because she was involved in its story event production from the very beginning. We also delved more into Yuuya Kuga in the 3DS version’s new “Lament of the X-Antibody” storyline, so I have a sentimental attachment to him.

Habu: If we’re going to talk about this game’s charcaters, we have to bring up Suzuhito Yasuda-san with it. We wanted to make a new Digimon World, so we also decided to change the target age group we had in mind. Up until this point, the Digimon franchise has always been geared towards children in some way, but for this game we decided to start targeting high school students and older players. With this in mind, we asked Yasuda-san to give the characters taller proportions and have the designs look a little catchier to the eye.

We only gave Yasuda-san their age and personality details, and he designed pretty much everything else. All of the characters are designed with Yasuda-san’s appealing style, especially Akiho, and I think we received a good response from the audience.

▲ Rina Shinomiya, a new character who appears in the 3DS version’s “The Scheming Demon Lords” storyline.

The fans’ dreams come true! Look out for two Ultimate forms that’ll be appearing in the 3DS version for the first time!!

–What are the highlights of the 3DS version’s new storylines?

Tomono: I think we were able to do a better job explaning things we didn’t elaborate on very well in the PSP version. As far as the main characters go, they appear in more scenes in the new storylines, and we got to delve into their characters even more.

Habu: Digimon has certain aspects of its worldbuilding that we absolutely can’t deviate from, so it sometimes made it difficult to make a story out of it. For example, in the 3DS version, we have storylines with X-Antibody Digimon and the Seven Great Demon Lords, but there are certain parts of their lore that already exist, and we can’t just change them however we want.

That being said, while the PSP version’s story was mainly based on its own worldbuilding and lore, the 3DS version was able to involve more familiar concepts, so I think it’s now possible to enjoy the story in even more ways.

–The 3DS version has added many more new Digimon. Are there any particular ones you’d like people to pay attention to?

▲ V-mon

Habu: As Digimon that determined the overall direction for this project, we started off by deciding to bring in V-mon and Tyrannomon. V-mon is the partner of Daisuke Motomiya, the protagonist of the anime Digimon Adventure 02, and it’s a Digimon with heavy name value and popularity. It’s appeared as a representative character for the Digimon franchise in a different way from Agumon.

On the other hand, Tyrannomon is a Digimon that’s been somewhat unfortunate. It was originally a popular character that would even be featured on LCD game packages, but it hasn’t been featured much since, and we want to make good use of it in this game. Tyrannomon didn’t have a proper Ultimate form for a very long time, but for this game, we gave it its first Ultimate-level form, RustTyrannomon.

–How did you come up with the background lore for this game’s new Digimon?

Habu: We had a meeting with Kenji Watanabe-san in order to come up with it. Incidentally, the “Rust” in RustTyrannomon’s name is often misread as “last”3, but it’s “rust”, because its body is designed to be covered in red rust.

We also have another new Digimon for the 3DS version, which serves as an Ultimate-level form for Ogremon. Ogremon is very popular in anime and other works, but as a result, the Adult-level Ogremon seems to have been featured so often that it was never given an Ultimate-level form.

–Tyrannomon and Ogremon are both very popular Digimon, so the fans will definitely be happy to see them finally getting their long-awaited Ultimate-level forms.

Habu: Of course, it’s only natural for them to want to see them get proper Ultimate-level forms. We put a lot of thought into them because we knew fans would be happy to see them.

▲ Tyrannomon, MetalTyrannomon, and RustTyrannomon. RustTyrannomon is a newly made Digimon for this game, and Ogremon’s Ultimate-level form will also make its first appearance.

We ask about the story behind the new system that the team dumped everything into!

–Now, we’d like to ask you about the background behind the new game systems made for the 3DS version, as well as what you intended to achieve with them. Firstly, what about Digitter?

Habu: It all started when Tomono-san said “I wish we could delve deeper into the characters” when we were developing the PSP version. We wanted to express the thoughts of the Digimon who live in the game world and the characters who play the game.

When I heard that, I’d said “don’t do that unless you can come up with something that actually makes good use of it within the game system,” as if it was something completely impossible, and then Tomono-san actually did create a system that did something to enhance the game. The 3DS version’s Digitter was created as an extension of that concept.

Tomono: It’s fun to watch things in real-time on the Internet, isn’t it? I figured that if we could create that feeling of real-time happenings with Digitter, you could get a real sense that the Digimon there are alive. At first, it was much simpler of a system, but I’m glad we were able to get much more in there than I’d initially thought we could.

–There’s a scene at the end of the story when different characters start discussing what’s going on with the world, and it brought a smile to my face from how reminiscent it was of the movie Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! I also enjoyed seeing things like seeing Digimon on the field have Digitter messages like “Gabumon is on guard.”

Tomono: We weren’t originally so motivated to go that far (laughs awkwardly). It started off as just a vague message like “there’s something in the grasslands”, but somehow at some point we ended up making them into comments about each individual Digimon.

As far as the final game balance goes, it also gives you strategy hints, hints about how to trigger certain sub-events, messages that go a little into the worldbuilding, and commentary on game events, so I think we ended up making something very interesting in the end. Well, maybe we ended up doing even more than should have been necessary.

–Next, we’d like to ask about the Decode Level. Was this done to make it easier for beginners?

Habu: That was one part of it. I think the one thing that new players would feel most uncomfortable about is the part where their Digimon will die when they reach the end of their lifespan. We received a lot of opinions about that from players of the PSP version.

Having a life cycle based on lifespan amounts is an important part of making this game “Digimon-like”, but I also understand how people feel when they say “I don’t like how all of my efforts so far are made into nothing.” Well, strictly speaking, it wasn’t reduced to absolutely nothing, and we did actually have a predetermined bonus for reincarnation, but I don’t think that part ended up very easy to understand.

So, starting from there, we decided to have there be a level for the protagonist — that is, the player — instead of a Digimon, so that the effort and time they’d spent playing up until then would be preserved in a concrete form.

Tomono: By quantifying it as a level, it makes it come off as more like an RPG. You can see the Decode Level’s adjustments in clear numbers with something like “+10”, and I think this kind of clarity is particularly important in this day and age.

Incidentally, during development, we’d also suggested the idea of having the option to turn the Decode Level on and off.

Habu: Digimon has a very important tenet of “raising from scratch”, so we had a lot of discussions about this. I think it’s important to think about these kinds of things as much as a long-time fan would.

Tomono: We also had a difficult time adjusting game balance. If the initial stats all got sent to 200 thanks to Decode Level bonuses, you’d run into a problem where you won’t be able to evolve your Digimon into forms with low stat requirements (laughs awkwardly). However, we resolved this problem by separately managing the Digimon’s base stats and its Decode Level bonuses.

–Then, what about DoReMiFa Mansion?

Habu: Our main initiating idea was that we wanted to expand town functions and change what it does in terms of game design. Beyond that, there were PSP version players who said things like “I like bringing Digimon back to my town, but they don’t do anything and they’re just useless loafers.” (laughs awkwardly). So, in response to those concerns, we decided on a setup where we could depict what the Digimon do after they come to your town.

–When you actually play it, it felt like having all of the Digimon live in an apartment building in exchange for items and money, like an extension of the meat field.

Tomono: We added that part later. Our original starting point was that we wanted to create a sense of life within the town by “depicting what the Digimon are doing after they returned to town”. Incidentally, it was originally more complicated of a system, but after this and that, we finally brought it into its current form.

Habu: I was greedy and asked a lot of them, but I feel like they managed to get most of them in there. I didn’t think we’d actually be able to do this much (laughs).

Tomono: We may have gone too far, but if we’d refused, it’d be a poor excuse for a game. We wanted to go forward with the motto “don’t slack on it”, so we decided it was fine to overdo it, and to keep doing it until we were completely satisfied.

Depending on which Digimon you bring to DoReMiFa Mansion, you may get to see some short, fun events. We’ve included all sorts of different things, big and small, so please try it out with a bunch of different Digimon. Maybe it was too much, but we ended up going as far as toying with things like “if that Digimon is in DoReMiFa Mansion and this Digimon comes to town, wouldn’t it be fun to see this happen?”

–You went as far as to think about little things like that!? Incidentally, can every Digimon that can live in town also live in DoReMiFa Mansion?

Tomono: Not all of them, but most of them can.

–Finally, we’d like to ask about Infinity Mountain, a special dungeon in the “Lament of the X-Antibody” storyline. When I was playing it, it felt less like a new subsystem and more like an entirely new mode, almost as if it was an entirely different game from the main one.

Tomono: That part alone has a lot of unique things made just for it (laughs awkwardly). For example, there are little gimmicks like pitfalls, but those kinds of things didn’t exist in the PSP version, so we added them to the system for the 3DS version. I’m the kind of person who thinks “dungeons need to have places where you have to fall through pitfalls,” so I really wanted to get that kind of gimmick in there.

Infinity Mountain also involves battles with giant Digimon, but this is something that’s particular to Infinity Mountain. In anime, you can easily depict Digimon with huge sizes, but you can’t do that as easily in games due to game limitations. But we thought it’d be nice to at least have them in Infinity Mountain, and we somehow managed to make it work.

–Infinity Mountain was a lot of fun because you could play with Digimon registered in your DigiStorage without worrying about their lifespans.

Habu: The PSP version allowed you to use Digimon you’d raised from your DigiStorage, but its only use was at the Colosseum, so for the 3DS version, Infinity Mountain will let you really bring them out. I really do think being able to walk with your Digimon is such an important thing.

It’s as difficult as that would suggest, but it’s at the level where you can clear it if you try hard enough. Also, you don’t have to do all 100 floors in one shot without saving; if you make it to a certain level, you can resume the challenge from that level, so please give it a try.

Hearing out the fans who played the PSP version and addressing the lack of endgame content!

–Were there any aspects that were based on feedback from PSP version players?

Tomono: We took an attitude that “we should hear out all of the points that sound convincing to us.” Naturally, it’d be a bad idea to adjust everything based purely on what we’re told, but we do want to value the opinions of everyone who’d played the game.

Habu: We were told that the Digimon partners were hard to see on the screen, so that was one of the first things we fixed. Since they’re next to the protagonist, there’s a much better sense of adventuring together with them.

We also added a smaller detail in that, before a Digimon evolves or reaches the end of its lifespan, it’ll react in a certain way.

Tomono: We had some PSP version players saying that their Digimon would reach the end of its lifespan so suddenly that they couldn’t prepare for it well enough. So now, as they reach the end of their lifespans, they’ll start feeling more and more tired until they reach the end.

Well, in any case, there are a lot of things we made after reflecting on what we should have done after finishing the PSP version. We ourselves were all too aware of the lack of endgame content, so we worked on it with a certain passion of “we will not let anyone say that about the 3DS version” (laughs).

Habu: I also think it was too easy to reach Digimon stat caps.

Tomono: So we increased the stat caps by ten times as much.

–To put it briefly, it’s the difference between 999 and 9999. It seems like that’d really change how the game plays, though…

Tomono: We’re balancing the endgame content around it, so don’t worry.

–Is it possible to max stats in the course of normal play?

Tomono: It’s theoretically possible, but it’d be extremely difficult. You’d have to make full use of items that increase training effects.

Habu: In short, if you want to maximize your abilities as a raising game player, you can enjoy it for a much longer time than you would with the PSP version.

–Incidentally, after I brought my Digimon to live in my town through sub-events, I felt that each Digimon seemed to have more dialogue than they did in the PSP version. Is that true?

Tomono: To put it clearly, we’ve added a huge number of lines. I think it now has around three times as many as the PSP version did.

Habu: That kind of dialogue is what gives you the sense that these Digimon are alive, isn’t it? The game also has 24-hour days, so we had the Digimon act differently depending on whether it was day or night.

Tomono: They have different lines depending on the situation, such as your degree of progress in certain events or the time of day.

Habu: We put a lot of effort into doing this kind of thing, but it’s surprisingly not something the players will be likely to notice. You may only ever end up seeing it once in the course of normal play, but we’re still working on having little things like having slightly different versions of the same event based on context, such as prosperity level and the Digimon’s own personality.

Tomono: For this one, we made sure to keep on putting more and more things into it until we were told to stop, so I don’t think it’ll be possible for anyone to feel like it’s lacking in this aspect. We did our best to put in as much as we could.

Habu: Ultimately, this game’s story is really only a bonus part of it. It’s fundamentally meant to be a fun game where you can keep playing with Digimon endlessly within the world where they live.

–You also stated that you put emphasis on replayability for this version. Is there anything interesting after clearing the game?

Habu: I think there’s already a lot of things you can continue to enjoy even after you’ve cleared the story, such as Infinity Mountain, the Colosseum, or Digimon raising. Also, at the beginning of a new playthrough, you’ll be able to make “a certain choice”, so I hope you can also enjoy a second playthrough as well.

The devs said it, so it must be reliable!? Advice for beginners

–Is there anything that you think new players should pay attention to? For instance, I wonder if the concept of lifespan might be a bit confusing to them.

Tomono: I think you can naturally get used to the concept of lifespan as you play. If you get them all the way to Ultimate, they’ll live longer, so I don’t think you’ll have much of a problem as long as you take care of them and raise them properly.

Personally, I would strongly recommend the restaurant. This is a facility where you can pay money to dine and raise your Digimon’s stats, and it’s significant enough that it’ll have a huge impact on your training efficiency. It’s such a useful facility, but it seems that there are a lot of people who don’t make good use of it because they don’t think there’s a reason to do so. Well, I might be talking about myself (laughs).

If you play normally, you’ll probably only give them meat when they get hungry after training, but if you switch to restaurant meals instead of just meat, the end result of your Digimon raising will be completely different. When we were playtesting, people around me kept telling me I should use the restaurant, but I didn’t really use it, and once I started actually using it I was surprised at how useful it was. So if you don’t want to have regrets like I did, please use the restaurant as soon as you can.

–That said, the restaurant is fairly expensive. Would you recommend timing your investments with DigiTrade as the market fluctuates?

Tomono: DigiTrade won’t always turn a profit, so I think it’s better to think of that as an investment whenever you have something to spare. It’s balanced so that it’s easy to make a profit off of, but it’s still dependent on your luck.

If you want to make money, I’d recommend fishing. It was a little too easy in the PSP version, so we’ve made some adjustments, but you can earn a lot of money quite efficiently by selling fish you catch. Of course, Digimon have a limited lifespan, you won’t be very efficient by trying to fish and train at the same time. I think having to make decisions on what to do depending on what you want to do, such as choosing between making money via fishing or raising your Digimon through training, is the core of Digimon World.

–What do you think, Habu-san?

Habu: In a conventional RPG, the basic gameplay loop would involve defeating smaller enemies on the field and leveling up to become stronger, but that’s not the case in this game. The Digimon in town will tell you this to very persistent degrees, but training is very important in this game, and you won’t even be able to leave town unless you’ve at least evolved to Adult.

Of course, this is just an example, and I think everyone will have their own playstyle, but for those who are playing for the first time, I recommend a cycle starting with your training in town and evolving, then heading outside the city and going off on an adventure, and I think that’ll make the game easy to understand and play.

–To be honest, I feel like the main advantage of fighting wild Digimon on the field is that you can learn skills (*) and to satisfy evolution conditions that involve numbers of battles.

*Learning skills: In this game, you can learn skills by taking attacks from opponent Digimon. However, it is not always possible to learn them, and they also cannot be learned unless certain conditions are met, such as the skill needing to match the attribute of the Digimon.

Habu: In regards to that point, the 3DS version has a somewhat higher stat growth rate from battle, and we’ve also buffed the item drop rate and dropped items. So I think adventuring outside town will have much more meaning.

Incidentally, some PSP version players said that it was stressful to escape from enemies pursuing them, so we’ve made some adjustments here. So now, it’s possible to go through fields without fighting, but that’s also what makes it more meaningful to have those battles.

–Incidentally, there’s a significantly larger number of Digimon types you can raise. Will it be difficult to complete the roster?

Tomono: In accordance with the increase in types, we’ve accelerated the growth cycle and added more hints regarding evolution conditions so that it’ll be easier to fill out the roster. For example, in the PSP version, it would take a long time to meet evolution conditions, but for the 3DS version, we made it possible to evolve much more smoothly, so you’ll have an easier time trying out more evolutions.

We’ve also increased the drop rate for items necessary to evolve into specific Digimon, so I hope you won’t feel a need to hesitate in using these items and play at a pace you like.

Habu: There are so many types available that I imagine it’ll be difficult to raise all of them. That being said, you can now see the evolution conditions in detail on the evolution chart, so it’ll be much easier to target a specific Digimon you want.

–I feel beginners might have difficulty figuring out when to use “scold” and “praise” when training. What would you recommend?

Habu: I think beginners should prioritize “praise”. If you’re not trying to minmax, it won’t have a particularly huge impact.

When you “praise” them, their “happiness” will go up and their “discipline” will go down. When you “scold” them, their “discipline” will go up and their “happiness” will go down. If their “happiness” is high, they’ll live longer but won’t respond as well to instructions during battle, and if “discipline” is higher, they’ll respond better to instructions during battle but won’t be as likely to live as long.

So I think it would be better for beginners to praise them and raise their “happiness” so they can live longer.

Tomono: In accordance with the increase in types, we’ve accelerated the growth cycle and added more hints regarding evolution conditions so that it’ll be easier to fill out the roster. For example, in the PSP version, it would take a long time to meet evolution conditions, but for the 3DS version, we made it possible to evolve much more smoothly, so you’ll have an easier time trying out more evolutions.

Habu: If your “discipline” is too low, your Digimon might get irritated at you even with the slightest of commands, and that can stress you out as a player.

Tomono: But we’ve also adjusted it so that as long as you don’t repeat the same orders over and over again, they’ll still listen to your commands to some extent. If you want to be the strongest in battle, “discipline” is important, but it’s also fundamentally important to raise them well and praise them. It’s like interacting with young kids these days (laughs).

Unpacking it from a system perspective, it basically changes your Digimon’s personality to be belligerent or peaceful during battle, and that’ll also change how they respond to commands in battle, so there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all answer. In the end, it really does depend on your playstyle.

A tale of struggles and a message for the fans that can only be said now

–What parts did you particularly struggle with during development? It sounds like the whole thing must have been a lot of struggling (laughs).

Tomono: There were a lot of times when I thought “there’s no way we can just finish it here!” (laughs awkwardly)

We had a hard time with adding all sorts of things that weren’t in the PSP version, and we went out of our way ot expand the system and increase the amount of text more and more. But we enhanced all of these elements especially for the 3DS version to the point that you really can’t call this a simple port anymore. It was something we needed to do, so I’m satisfied.

Habu: The hardest part was addressing what I said at the beginning about reproducing the “Digimon World-ness”. It’s a game with a very unique sensibility to it, so it was difficult to reconstruct that in a modern way.

Another struggle that I felt very deeply was that there were so many types of Digimon in it. In a standard RPG, you can call it a completed game with only 50 enemy characters, and you can make even more with palette swaps.

But with Digimon, each type has its own personality, and different body shapes have different poses and actions. Some are beast-like, and some are humanoid. Not only can you not reuse models, but you also have to individually recreate the action animations for each Digimon, so it really isn’t easy. Even with humanoid Digimon, their body shapes can vary, so in the end you have to do it one by one.

Tomono: It takes around four to five more times more labor to create a new Digimon character than it would a new character in a normal RPG.

Habu: We have to take into account having limited time and budget. We’d like to add more Digimon and more animations, but we kept runing into situations where we had no choice but to pick one or the other (laughs awkwardly).

We wanted to make more unique animations for eating food, and make more animations for battle, but then we’d have to cut Digimon from the game…

Tomono: We didn’t just swap out the battle animations, we even increased the number of skills in the game by quite a bit. We’ve increased the variety of effects, and we’ve also planned them out to make this even more fun to play than the PSP version, so please look forward to it.

–In closing, please leave a message for the fans who are looking forward to this game.

Tomono: We’ve done everything we could. So after this, we’d like everyone to play, and if they have any feedback, we’d like to keep that in mind and make Digimon games more interesting and exciting.

Habu: It’s the franchise’s 15th anniversary milestone, and we’ve revived Digimon World after 13 years, but we’re going to take a bit of a break after this 3DS game. This is the culmination of the 15th anniversary, so I hope a lot of people will play it.

There will be Digimon from different eras, from early ones to recent ones, so please look forward to that.

Digimon’s 15th anniversary project has involved not only games but also commemorative merchandise such as figures, TCG cards, and T-shirts. I hope we can work together with the fans to make Digimon more exciting and help the series continue on.

▲ During the interview, Habu-san was wearing a “15th Anniversary T-shirt” that was released to commemorate Digimon’s 15th annviersary. Featuring Beelzebumon and Beel-ko and designed by Kenji Watanabe, it is scheduled to be released by Premium Bandai and other retailers in the summer of 2013.

Translator's notes
  1. I won’t be translating the review article, but in short, it praises the game for being user-friendly and a significant improvement over the original PSP game, eventually concluding “if you can bring only one game with you to a deserted island, it should be this one.” []
  2. “Kenji Watanabe-san” = A character designer considered to be one of the creators of the Digimon franchise. []
  3. Both “rust” and “last” are written as ラスト (“rasuto“) in Japanese. []

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